Do Not Underestimate the Value of a Comprehensive Sports Program
by Kevin Darrell, Clements Worldwide
Members Of Male High School Soccer Playing Match
Numerous studies cite the importance of offering and integrating a competitive sports program into your school’s experience.  These studies point to the relationship between competitive sports and the development of mental capabilities and academic achievement as a key benefit, but that is just one piece of how competitive sports programs shape future leaders. Other developmental skills that can be attained include, but are not limited to:
Improved teamwork; There is no activity that illustrates the value of performing collectively with strong communication and shared goals better than sports play. From the earliest of ages, a child learns instinctively and through instruction the value of being a team player through sports. Even an exceptional individual performance will not drive success – winning requires teamwork. This basic value will then be internalized by the child and applied to all other aspects of their lives.
Increased ethical framework; The global marketplace is increasingly complex, with items being conceived in Frankfurt, built in Phnom Penh, and sold in New York City. Underlying this borderless trading are complex geo-political tensions, resulting in a new order where, for example, there is the highest refugee population ever recorded. For schools preparing future leaders, instilling a strong sense of ethics and fairness is paramount to address these and life’s other challenges. Sportsmanship fundamentally teaches children to be fair, honest, and faithful. The old adage says, “It does not matter whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game.” This ethical structure has long-lasting effects on a child.
Improved leadership skills; With competitive sports, children are taught how to react in the moment and make instant decisions, often under considerable pressure. This helps them build their problem solving intuition – a critical competency for any leader. Sports also increases determination and concentration in students – other key attributes of leadership.
Sustained balance; We live in a culture of “Do More” and 24/7 access to a screen of some type. Healthy living requires children (and adults) to push back against the sedentary lifestyle or they run the risk of various lifestyle, stress-related diseases such as diabetes and heart problems, even in children. Developing a habit of sports- and arts-related activities creates a balanced mind and body that is critical for physical and mental health that hopefully can be carried through a child’s full life.
Even with such evidence for competitive sports programs, many private, international schools still cannot create truly competitive teams and may instead rely on just a basic physical education program.
What are the challenges of creating a competitive sports program for schools?
In order for a team to be competitive it needs to compete. Many international schools lack neighboring schools to engage with in sports competitions. To find enough similar caliber schools would require a significant investment in student travel, including overnight trips in hotels, necessitating supervision by teachers, chaperones, or other volunteers. Many schools are also concerned about the liability of travelling with their student athletes and the trouble they could get into on and off the field. Schools may have felt as if they had explored travel accident coverage for amateur sports tournaments in the past but did not find solutions, as the insurance market only offered policies that covered recreational sports. This has changed.
Niche insurance brokers can provide a policy with ample coverage regardless of whether the injury occurs while traveling to an event, after hours at a restaurant or hotel, or during actual game play. This coverage will address activities across town or in another country, with extended services for evacuation if a suitable facility is far from the accident or injury. It can also cover educators, administrators, volunteers, parents, chaperones, and students.
So take the opportunity to improve your overall student experience with a competitive sports program. Short-term you will see happier, healthier children and long-term you will be impressed by the responsible leaders they become.
 Taliaferro, L. A. (2010). Relationships Between Youth Sport Participation and Selected Health Risk Behaviors From 1999 to 2007. Journal of School Health, 399-410.